Good Hay and Not feeding corn

A place to exchange ideas, stories, and to solve problems related to breeding the flock and delivering lambs.

Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby Shltz4 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:45 pm

Thanks for the advice everybody. Should I separate out the twins/triplets and the ewe lambs with them? I only have enough winter facilities for two groups.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby Janet McNally » Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:47 pm

At least separate the triplets, and you can put the ewe lambs in with them. Triplet bearing ewes tend to not be quite as aggressive at the feed bunk, and need their space. They also move slower, so when fed in a large group, they tend to get less total feed than the single and twin bearing ewes. Although I do not separate my triplet bearing ewes at this time, I have in the past. Some grain (1 to 1.5 lbs assuming excellent forages) fed to trip bearing ewes, especially after lambing, usually will pay you back in heavier weaning weights.

Janet

ps I do not mean for this to substitute for a proper balanced ration. It is just to give an overall picture of what can be done. I also use Bill Keough's services and I highly recommend his program.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby K Bar K Farm » Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:48 am

DonDrewry wrote:Janet, are you sometimes actually feeding just hay prior to lambing? If you are do you think it would work for "average" ewes, or for ewes selected for a grass operation? I'm pretty impressed if the ewes are able to routinely be fed just forage as it's just different than I've heard or ever had the guts to try just forage for a winter lambing.


Don,

I quit feeding any grain pre-lambing about 5 or 6 years ago. We feed mediocre to medium quality grass hay mid-pregnancy (the Feb-lambing ewes come off pasture in late Nov/early Dec. about a month after breeding ends), then about 3-4 weeks before lambing is to start, I feed dairy-quality MML (alfalfa) hay (not near as much wastage with that as there is with the grass hay!).

No grain. We also haven't fed grain (nor creep fed the lambs) after lambing except for triplet-bearing ewes that get 1-1.5 lb. of corn (along with the MML hay) until turnout on pasture in early April when all grain feeding stops. All ewes with singles/twins continue to receive the MML hay only (all have free choice mineral as well).

I think I bought a total 500 lb. of corn last year for 125-130 lambing ewes (only feeding corn to the triplet moms).

We have a few sheep that 'fall out' of the system, not doing well- lower BCS, or open, or weak/slow growing lambs. They all grow wheels. That has obviously helped us select for the sheep that fit the system. But the numbers of those get fewer and fewer every year - probably 1-2/year now for general 'unthriftiness', which could be do to a number of issues.

But for the most part there haven't been any 'train wrecks'.

But we did it two ways. First, we didn't go 'cold turkey'- we slowly cut back. One thing that set us on this path (other than grain prices!) was that I noticed that many of my ewes wouldn't finish the corn. They yelled for the, and tore into it, but if they saw me putting out fresh hay, they actually preferred that to the corn and left the feed bunk. This left only a few 'piggies' cleaning up the rest of the grain, and I got worried about those piggies upsetting their rumens. So I started locking them in with the grain (and away from hay)- they just stood at the gate and bawled to go out to the hay. Then I just cut back the amount of grain so they cleaned it up. But they kept leaving some for the 'piggies'. So I thought "why fight them?"

Second, the influx of British Dorset genetics that we now have in our flock has REALLY improved the forage utilization. This isn't something I can quantify with EBVs directly, but I see it in the flock in the growth rates of the lambs (there were a couple of times I weighed the F1 British-sired weaned lambs twice (after checking my scale!) as I didn't believe the ADG on the poor forage they were on at the time). And they are deep-bodied 'gutty' sheep. Certainly not what a show judge likes to see, but I LOVE to see it as I know they have the capacity to eat enough forage and carry those lambs (we have a 185-200% drop on our mature Dorset ewes- no flushing with grain, only what happens naturally on the fall flush of grass at breeding time).

The biggest benefit has been to my blood pressure.....which might not make sense except that the farm has become SOOOO quiet since we quit feeding grain. Corn seems like an addiction to sheep (even when the ate a few bites and went back to the hay)- they YELL for it. When my car (and my car only- they KNOW my car!) pulled into the lane in the afternoon, the entire farm lit up with sheep YELLING. VERY irritating! But now when I pull in, they may 'talk' a bit to me when they're out of hay, but NOTHING like the 'Corn-Screams' they used to get. I love it!

We are just finishing our pre-lambing shearing, and the ewes are FAT (some have 'bustles of fat' on their butts) from the forage-only diet- I can't imagine what they'd look like if I were to start feeding them grain!

Now, if there were a year I couldn't get the hay quality we need, I would certainly consider grain feeding to meet their nutrient needs. But so far we haven't had to go back to grain.

On our 170-180 lb. mature Dorset ewes, twin birth weights are usually 7-9 lb. Triplets are a bit smaller (running 6-8 lb.) and singles are larger, probably running 11-13 lb. They're vigorous and jump up to find the 'spigot' quickly, which they need to do to survive the colder lambing.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby Lana Rowley » Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:50 am

We do not feed any grain to ewes, lambs or rams. We do live in an area that sells a lot of dairy/press quality hay. It is just easier and cheaper for us to feed hay. Hay prices here the past few years for test( dairy quality which is what all these guys strive for) hay have stayed around $200-240 a ton. We like to feed grass hay( stays around $200 a ton for the good stuff) until the last month of gestation, but some years it is just easier to get alfalfa. You can sometimes get "feeder hay" from the cattle guys, and we have feed it mid gestation with no trouble.

Most of the people i know around here do not feed grain. Again, i do not think this is some political statement, just the fact we live in hay country. Also keep in mind that our ewes come off irrigated pastures in the summer, and alfalfa stubble in the fall, so going into winter they are in very good condition.

I would want better hay for late gestation than the OP indicated he had.


2011 ewes being turned out to lamb

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2102 ewes turning out.

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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby BIGIRON59 » Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:14 am

"We have a few sheep that 'fall out' of the system, not doing well- lower BCS, or open, or weak/slow growing lambs. They all grow wheels. That has obviously helped us select for the sheep that fit the system. But the numbers of those get fewer and fewer every year - probably 1-2/year now for general 'unthriftiness', which could be do to a number of issues. "

Even though I raise "alternative" sheep, this statement has always been aptly applied.Even when I fed corn , we selected for ewes that were able to produce on the roughages we used, (corn stalks, grass hay ect). I always worry about people changing course midstream with a feed program. Ewes have a remarkable capacity to adapt to a wide variety of feeds and environments. But they can not do it in 1 year , or generation.I put a lot of selection pressure on "low manitainance" ewes.

"The biggest benefit has been to my blood pressure.....which might not make sense except that the farm has become SOOOO quiet since we quit feeding grain. Corn seems like an addiction to sheep (even when the ate a few bites and went back to the hay)- they YELL for it."

Ditto on this, my wife wonders somtimes if we have any sheep here. Last night I was 1 hr late, and even then the very pregnant ewes made very little noise. When I fed corn, they would scream every time the door opened, even if so fat they could hardly walk. I feed in fenceline feedbunk with a small feed wagon. I carried a small pail of extra salt to the shed a few days ago. Years ago would have been a "mobbing" . The ewe lambs retreated to the other side of the pen, as they seemed to think it was a "bad thing."

I live in an area where grain has historically been cheaper than hay. That would explain why most here feed plenty of grain. I have always been of the opinion that to much grain is unhealthy to a ruminant. That comes from my "western unpbringing". We fed roughage, and protein . Very little grain. We had very healthy animals, that were productive for a very long time.
I still feed energy/protein sources, but the only corn my ewes have had the last 3 years have been from the ground corn stalk bales.
Overall, i think they are healthier for that. I purchased a gruop of BF ewes last year. They are my problem children this year. And I am again reminded of why I don't do that. But I wanted to expand, and with expansion come purchases. I would venture that 75 percent of that purchase will be culled after this lambing. I just won't have bad habits(including standing on the fence bellowing, and running from end to end the feed bunk with feed falling out of thier mounth) very long . These types of ewes do not perform very long in a limit fed system. They are to "busy" worring about things , instead of eating when they should. I am hoping that my rams, on this gruop of ewes will yeild some daughters to add. Time will tell.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby DonDrewry » Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:37 am

Janet and Lana - nice productive looking ewes.

Janet, thanks for the more detailed explanation. Some of the Polypay NSIP breeders will remember our ram "Sven" that had great growth EPDs. Grass orientated operations loved his body type for exactly the heart girth reasons you mentioned. I suspect few rams had larger heart girths for their size. My kids would make fun of him as they claimed he always looked like he could have triplets in a week. After year's of ignoring the fact that ewes need chest capacity and rumens bigger than a softball even the club lamb industry is now paying attention to this attribute but we use different words as apparently "heart girth" is too old fashioned and instead we use "proper rib shape".

Lana, I checked Minnesota hay prices and RFV hay > 151 ranged from $261 - $300 / ton last week so it looks like our hay is little pricier than yours. I suppose some feedback you'd get would view a grass operation versus grain fed as political. With $6-7/bushel corn, it would seem to me people that haven't considered increasing the use of forages in their operation would recognize that this isn't a political, "how to best raise sheep" but an old fashioned, "how to not lose my shirt" issue. I think people tend to forget the particular "micro economy" they live in and why what works for them won't necessarily work for others. I live right on the edge of a major metropolitan area. If I wanted to start raising 500 ewes there are things that would possibly work for me and there are things that wouldn't . Land and local feed prices tend to be relatively high as we compete with hobby farmers and horse stables for both feed and land. There are probably 10-20 times if not more horses in my county than sheep. This means the horse people put a lot of pressure on local farmers for high quality hay. What isn't hobby or horse places tends to be corn / soybean production. The result of this low quality forages are usually pretty good prices (corn stalks, and rained on hay). Of course if I moved 50 - 150 miles the micro economy would change, particularly the land prices so some things would pencil out a lot better than they do for me.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby Shltz4 » Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:05 am

In my area the good hay is getting hauled into the dairies from the Dakota's. this is tested 27% protein for 330 a ton. My uncles both milk in northern il and that's all they can locate. Cow hay untested is 250 a ton on average. Corn per pound is cheaper than dairy quaility hay here especially with corn prices on the decline as it has been below 7 dollars for most of last week. This week it is on the upturn as the fear of the Brazilian crop looking dry around pollination. It's possible to get 6.75 corn here is you watch local markets.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby K Bar K Farm » Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:58 pm

First it was the potential Fiscal Cliff, and now a newly coined potential 'Grain Cliff'

http://www.dairyherd.com/e-newsletters/ ... 87301.html
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby Tom Nichols » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:00 pm

Spurred by this thread, I checked local prices.
Bulk corn FOB Corvallis feed mill dumped into your tote, bin or pick-up bed, $460/ton
Dairy Quality Alfalfa squeezed into barn lebanon, Oregon, $300/ton
I have always figured a 150 pound ewe in a confined shed lambing operation needs the equivalent of 2 pounds of corn and 5-7 pounds of alfalfa a day during late gestation and early lactation.
At today's prices this equals $3.22 for corn and $3.75 to $5.25 for AA, or $7 to $8.50 per week.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby K Bar K Farm » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:06 pm

Tom Nichols wrote:I have always figured a 150 pound ewe in a confined shed lambing operation needs the equivalent of 2 pounds of corn and 5-7 pounds of alfalfa a day during late gestation and early lactation.


Tom,

My ewes literally wouldn't eat that much corn/day (as a group, that is- there are particular gluttons that would happily clean up what the rest left). I've tried it, even trying twice/day feeding(which we normally don't do). I guess they haven't read the SID manual. :)
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby Shltz4 » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:31 pm

Wow, that's some expensive corn. Almost double what I pay
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby Darroll Grant » Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:42 pm

I just checked 'delivered to Portland' current corn price--303.60/t by the single car load. Wheat is cheaper at 286/t. Some local dairies are subing wheat for part of the corn in their corn-barley ration. Actually there is a fair jag of corn raised in eastern Washington. Those growers get to take advantage of the freight cost from points further east.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby BIGIRON59 » Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:57 pm

"I have always figured a 150 pound ewe in a confined shed lambing operation needs the equivalent of 2 pounds of corn and 5-7 pounds of alfalfa a day during late gestation and early lactation.
At today's prices this equals $3.22 for corn and $3.75 to $5.25 for AA, or $7 to $8.50 per week."

Last year I self fed ewes in lactaion. My BF ewes weigh about 180 in breeding rig. Most of my culls will weigh about that as well. These ewes were self fed a TMR that was 1.85 lbs soyhulls(meal form) 1.85 DDGS, .3 lb a day of custom balancer. 2 lbs of high quality grass/alafafa hay and 3 lbs of corn stalks.This was all ground through a 5/16 screen on hammer mill. These gals ate 9.5 pounds per day and the lambs ate some.The feeder design I used allowed very little waste. This year that will cost $6.37 per ewe per week. Current late gestation ration is 2.33 per head per week, but limit fed.So I can't see how you were getting 9 lbs of intake on long stemmed hay and 2 lbs of corn in 150 lb ewe. They must have been wasting about 15 to 20 percent of the hay. I could be wrong, but I just don't see 150 lb ewe eating that much, or needing that much of that qulity of feed.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby hammond shepherd » Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:15 am

RFV becomes less important a number as the amount of grass in the hay increases. I've never balanced a ration using RFV. And since I'm not interested in feeding , or growing, straight alfalfa hay it is a number I tend to ignore. :)

It is possible to harvest fine stem alfalfa in the upper midwest. Ask your seed dealer for fine stem varieties to plant, they have been available for years. I'm planting a fine stem, multi-leaf alfalfa this coming spring from Legend Seed.
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Re: Good Hay and Not feeding corn

Postby Bill Fosher » Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:42 am

Big Iron,

My larger ewes barely nose 150. Average weight is probably 140 or so. They'll put away 9 pounds of dry matter without having it ground, especially when the diet is very palatable forage like fine-stemmed balage or spring pasture. You have to realize that these girls are primarily rumens. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, all the rest is transport.
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